Investiture Stories: Ten-year-old ballerina receives her granny's CBE


Ten-year-old Ella receives the CBE awarded to her late grandmother, Jill Tookey, founder of the National Youth Ballet.

Why was this award given to your grandmother?

This was given to my granny because of her commitment to dance and young people as founder of the National Youth Ballet. She has been running NYB for 29 years! This is also important to my family because of how rare it is to be awarded a CBE and how amazing it is to be able to meet Prince Charles.

I’m sure she was there somewhere dancing around the ballroom, we just couldn’t see her!

Why were you chosen to collect it?

I was chosen to collect the CBE because I am Granny’s only granddaughter and have danced with the National Youth Ballet for four seasons. Originally I was going to watch Granny receive her CBE at Buckingham Palace, but sadly she passed away before she could collect it.

Did Jill inspire you to start dancing?

Granny encouraged me to take up dancing when I was about two. I would go and watch the NYB auditions and sometimes at rehearsals I would go running in and out of the older dancers, hopping and galloping. I started doing ballet classes at about three, and then modern, tap and jazz at about seven. Now at nearly eleven years old I have been doing dance for seven and a half years.

How did you feel at the investiture?

It was really scary when I was waiting to go through to the ballroom where the ceremony was taking place, but when I could see Prince Charles all my shivers went away instantly. Strangely I wasn’t scared anymore. When I had done it I was over the moon that I had collected my granny’s CBE!

What did you speak to Prince Charles about?

He said he was really proud of me for collecting Granny’s CBE, and he said Granny would be very very proud of me. He talked about The Old Man of Lochnagar, the children’s book he wrote and which Granny turned into a ballet. The ballet is being performed at a Gala in memory of Granny which will be hosted by Joanna Lumley at Sadler’s Wells in September.

What do you think your granny would have thought of today?

She would have loved every minute. I’m sure she was there somewhere dancing around the ballroom, we just couldn’t see her!

How will you remember your granny?

She was an extraordinarily creative, inspiring granny who was always happy and had an enormous sense of fun - no one can replace her!

To find out more about the National Youth Ballet, visit

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